Highlight pragmatic benefits of volunteering

To be busy is the norm in Singapore, so findings that more Singaporeans are donating rather than volunteering their time are not surprising ("S'pore ranks 28th in World Giving Index"; Oct 27).

The Individual Giving Survey done by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre in 2014 found that only 17.8 per cent of Singaporeans volunteered, while the World Giving Index by the Charities Aid Foundation found that only about 20 per cent of Singaporeans did so.

A higher rate of volunteerism is often correlated with a more active citizenry, especially through interactions with the disenfranchised and subsequently through evaluations of socio-economic policies.

Yet, endeavours to get more Singaporeans to volunteer must go beyond mere appeals to altruism or to general benefits of civic participation.

To encourage those who may be short of time, highlight the pragmatic benefits: meeting new people and expanding networks; developing skills when organising events and mobilising manpower, and even involving family members or colleagues in these projects.

To encourage those who may be short of time, highlight the pragmatic benefits: meeting new people and expanding networks; developing skills when organising events and mobilising manpower, and even involving family members or colleagues in these projects.

Such pragmatism may be antithetical to the spirit of volunteerism.

However, I would argue that what matters is whether, over the long term, the new volunteers continue to commit, allowing themselves to be shaped by the experience.

Nine years ago, as a student, I started my community service involvement with the intent of boosting my curriculum vitae, so as to present myself to colleges and scholarship boards as an applicant who was selfless and engaged.

But after years of community service, the intent of my volunteerism has shifted and broadened to something more genuine and sincere.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Highlight pragmatic benefits of volunteering'. Print Edition | Subscribe